MANILA - Hector Canto will never forget the day he married his wife, Cynthia, in a Catholic Church in Iloilo.
On the day of the wedding, both partners wore white - Cynthia in her wedding gown and Hector in his priest's robe.
May 31, 1998 was the day Hector formally broke his vow of celibacy as a Catholic priest. He is now part of a group of Ilonggo priests who are urging the Catholic Church to make celibacy optional.
Canto now runs a transport business in Dumagas, Iloilo. He and Cynthia have 3 children.
Cynthia said Hector is a very loving husband and head of the family who always teaches their kids about values.
Hector said the church does not recognize his marriage with Cynthia although they have already gotten married in civil rites. "Ang term na ginagamit ng simbahan dun ay attempted marriage," he said.
Cynthia said their union has not always been easy.
"Every time na magmisa, hindi kami bibigyan ng communion ng pari. Ano ba ang kasalanan ko? Bakit niyo ako ginaganun publicly?" she said.
Hector said the Apostle Paul in the Bible understood that a celibate life is not for everybody. He quoted 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul instructs other Christians that it would be better to marry than burn in passion.
"There really are eunuchs for the Kingdom but it is a vocation. Sa amin kasi, it becomes a mandatory celibacy," he said.
Canto admitted that he had several girlfriends before he married Cynthia.
"At least I got 2 girlfriends in one parish. I had 5 parishes. Ang dami na, di ba? Yun talaga di ba, masarap ang bawal. I never dreamed of being married because I enjoyed being a playboy priest."
Canto still celebrates Mass every week with other married priests. "Ang ginagawa namin parang illicit but valid. The sacraments we celebrate as priests are still valid but the law has suspended us to perform," he said.
He said he has always wanted to be a priest and spent 14 years in a seminary before he finally became one.
Canto said he does not condemn celibacy since many good priests are celibate. However, he urged Catholics to return to the essence of Christianity as shown in the bible.
"Every day of my life, I am going to stand for what I've done, of being a married priest," he said.
ABS-CBN Tapatan ni Tunying, July 19, 2013